Nelson city council wants more details before deciding whether to back the City of Trail’s application for federal money to build a second access route to Kootenay Boundary regional hospital.
Council received a letter Monday from Trail mayor Mike Martin asking for support for the project, which would see an alternate access road built to the hospital, on a bench above East Trail.
But while some councillors liked the idea, others had concerns.
“While there has not been an issue to date, the single road access creates some vulnerability for for timely healthcare in the event of a road closure or serious congestion while handling a mass casualty event,” Martin wrote. “The single road also does not provide for the most effective or efficient traffic movement for patients and staff day-to-day.”
Trail is applying to the New Building Canada Fund, although their letter didn’t indicate the overall cost of the project nor how much they are seeking. News reports have pegged the cost at $2.3 million. The city hopes to tender the project as early as this year, pending the acquisition of property.
Martin said the secondary access would complement Interior Health’s multi-million dollar plans to expand the hospital’s emergency, ambulatory care, and pharmacy departments. It would also allow an expanded parking area. Interior Health has been on record since 2009 as supporting the project in principle.
Councillor Anna Purcell introduced a motion to support the request, seconded by councillor Bob Adams.
“Having a second access to the Trail hospital would help our community in the sense that a lot of patients go to Trail in ambulances,” said councillor Robin Cherbo. “If for some reason the single access is blocked, it could be a crisis.”
However, councillor Michael Dailly said he opposed the request, suggesting that backing Trail’s application could jeopardize Nelson’s hopes of tapping the same fund for its Hall Street project: “I want to give us every shot at getting [the funding].”
Councillor Janice Morrison wondered if Interior Health has pledged any financial help, and if any other local municipalities have been approached for support besides Nelson.
Cherbo asked that a decision be delayed until Morrison’s questions are answered. The motion passed with Dailly opposed.
In an email to the Star, Trail city administrator David Perehudoff explained they are not seeking money from Interior Health, as the project is considered a local road that is the city’s responsibility.
He also suggested that the proposed upgrades to the regional hospital should “ensure that the two hospital site model is retained, which would seemingly be to Nelson’s benefit.”
Perehudoff said Trail has asked other local governments for support, and has so far received letters from the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary board and regional directors for Beaver Valley and Lower Columbia-Old Glory. Warfield has also endorsed the project.
Mayor Deb Kozak said afterward that supporting Trail’s request wouldn’t necessarily hurt Nelson’s chances at getting money for its own project. “Council will have to consider that we have a regional hospital and work together as communities. If we are better able to support each other regionally, we lift each other up. [But] the way the grant process is set up, it’s difficult. Communities compete with each other.”
Overall, the New Building Canada Fund has $14 billion to be spent across Canada. The component Nelson and Trail are seeking money from is worth $1.1 billion.